The Best Water Filters for Faucets
Water Filters: We purchased the four best faucet water filters and compared them to filtered water from pitchers, reverse osmosis systems, and bottled water suppliers after comparing lab tests from dozens of filter systems. The Brita FF100, with its small size and outstanding performance certifications, was the best faucet water filter. A multi-pattern spray and push-button filter replacement have also been added by Brita. The DuPont WWFM350, our runner-up, will last longer between filter replacements but is less portable.
How we Selected Things to Test
We began our search for the top faucet water filter by looking up reviews. Surprisingly few in-depth reviews of the best on-faucet water filter systems exist, and even the top results are scant with references to real usage or comparisons with rival devices.
Although less common than the water filter pitchers we evaluated, faucet water filters are less complicated to buy and install than under-sink filtering systems. The top players from the world of pitchers are producing faucet-mount systems, but there are also hundreds of imitators cashing in.
A mystery-brand filter typically costs a little less than the well-known faucet-mount water filter systems, but you have to give up a lot of assurance for a few extra bucks a year. The type of filter used by some of the least expensive filters isn’t even mentioned.
We only purchased filters that had been independently certified by NSF International in order to make sure we were evaluating reliable items. These credentials guarantee that a filter will function as promised even after its rated life has passed. Additionally, their laboratory testing is much more thorough and stringent than anything we could hope to do in our test houses. NSF doesn’t offer opinions on a product’s suitability or quality.
Even with this assurance, selecting a water filter might be challenging because not all filters are put through the same tests. A producer decides which substances to test against, and NSF merely lists a pass rating. Neither the manufacturer nor NSF is required to inform you if a particular contaminant was tested and the filter performed poorly at filtering it.
We looked through the NSF database for tested and listed faucet water filters, and we purchased all the most recent models that had at least undergone lead removal testing.
After weighing the cost of ownership, reliability, and awkwardness of countertop units with hose attachments to faucets (not to mention the higher initial cost and awkwardness of the hoses), we decided to stick with filters that mount directly to the faucet spout.
After identifying the companies that had invested in thorough testing of filter performance, we looked through user reviews to identify any features that stood out or raised reliability issues.
Sadly, there are complaints of failure for every filter we discovered with reliable reviews. The mineral build-up will always be a concern if you run water via tiny tubes and channels. That only gets worse due to the filter’s constrained to flow. Nevertheless, we carefully considered the reports of filters popping off and splitting apart while comparing the various versions on the market.
Compare the top water filters for faucets.
Is a filter essential?
We find it most difficult to respond to this query. You don’t need to filter anything; your water is safe, is the conventional response for the majority of people with internet access, but that isn’t the complete story.
American water safety
Most of us can safely consume water thanks to water treatment. While some Americans rely on a private well that they are responsible for maintaining, the great majority of Americans use a local water authority. Utilizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) database, you can learn more about that person and how effectively they are managing your water. This keeps track of who provides water and whether impurities have been discovered in excess of permitted amounts.
You can access the EPA-tracked consumer confidence report if your local water authority doesn’t mail it to you directly. This enables you to examine information about how closely household water meets community health agency goals in addition to a passing grade. The “secondary” requirements, which cover aspects of water quality that aren’t regarded as health risks, will also be covered in their reports.
Before making a purchase, you can verify the filter ratings for any specified contaminants that are too close to the safe level.
Flavor and chlorine
The major reason to filter drinking water is that chlorine — the disinfectant used in civic water systems — doesn’t taste very nice. Your water authority controls and monitors the quantity of chlorine used, but you can filter out chlorine to improve the flavor of most municipal water.
When we investigated brand-new and well-used water-pitcher filters, we found that even “used up” granular carbon filters effectively eliminate chlorine. NSF standard 42, a widely used certification for household water filters, covers all of this.
Consider lead pipes.
Although the tap water in our tester’s city is clean, the local consumer confidence report claims that over 90% of households have some lead in the water. All of that is attributable to outdated plumbing inside of homes, not to the public water system. Though it is well above the public health objective, it is about one-third of the permitted lead level.
Similar circumstances occurred in Flint, Michigan houses prior to the Flint water disaster, where altering water supplies led to the leakage of hazardous amounts of lead from old, previously safe pipes.
One of the most highly promoted features of water filters in reaction to the Flint catastrophe is lead filtration. We only suggest filtration systems that have been expressly approved to remove lead.
Filter NSF ratings
The University of Michigan’s School of Public Health was the originator of NSF International. Although they are now officially known as just NSF International, the organization’s original name was the “National Sanitation Foundation.”
As a private certifying body, NSF collaborates with numerous food, health, and safety organizations across the globe. They establish what is safe and work with other standard-setters, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), to test and certify a variety of goods, from bakeware to medical gadgets. They establish testing criteria with input from a variety of stakeholders, including water filter manufacturers. They are the primary certifier of water filtering technology.
NSF, however, only tests and certifies products; it does not provide product recommendations. You won’t get the full picture of what was or wasn’t effective in the product’s testing if you see an advertisement that claims it underwent NSF testing.
There are two required tests for NSF-certified water filters, as well as numerous more ones that aren’t frequently asked for or promoted:
- This requirement, which is simple to meet using activated carbon, NSF/ANSI standard 42, certifies that a water filter may “lower aesthetic impurities such as chlorine and taste/odor.” This requirement is essentially met by every water filter that is more complex than a mesh strainer.
- The other typical test is NSF/ANSI standard 53, which in this instance certifies that a filter can lower tested pollutant levels in water from dangerous to safe. Although not all of the filters we examined have NSF 53 certification for the same pollutants, the manufacturer determines which contaminants to test for.
- A portion of the safety test that addresses volatile organic compounds (or “VOCs”) is NSF/ANSI standard 53 – VOC. These substances need a specialized testing procedure since they evaporate quickly. Typically, VOC performance is assessed by running water that has been chloroform-loaded through the filter, then NSF extrapolates the results for other contaminants based on prior laboratory work. Therefore, a larger list doesn’t necessarily indicate anything.
- Another subset of standard 53 is NSF/ANSI standard 401. This test focuses on 15 contaminants that aren’t yet covered by laws governing water quality or health. Pesticides, flame retardants, detergents, and medications are a few examples. Only two of the brands we evaluated had passed these particular tests to get certified.
Comparing findings is challenging because not every filter is rated for the same chemicals.
In order to better catch metals, for instance, one filter maker may have embedded another filter medium into their activated carbon block; if another manufacturer hasn’t advertised their filter as eliminating that metal, it may have failed a test.
On the other hand, it might just be that the manufacturers of the filters assume that people will only focus on a select few significant contaminants. After the widely publicized Flint water disaster, testing for lead, for instance, is a no-brainer, but few customers are actively looking for remedies for mercury pollution. It could be a cost-cutting measure to leave mercury off the test list, or it could be that the performance is just slightly subpar (for example, only 85% eliminated instead of 98%) so that it stands out on the datasheet and makes the filter look worse than it would otherwise).
The fake water test
Hardware stores frequently provide “free” water testing kits but beware: by highlighting the mineral concentration of your water, the hardware store test kits are intended to get you to purchase a reverse osmosis system.
Some salespeople would even conduct false tests to persuade you that your water contains contaminants that it doesn’t. Check out this story of a scientist who was describing erroneous tests to a salesman who didn’t even seem to know what he was testing.
Many consumers have fallen victim to fraud where they pay more than market value for a system, frequently using a shop credit card with high-interest rates.
Authorities like the Florida Attorney General and the Minnesota Department of Health have expressly advised consumers to exercise caution when buying filters after seeing tests conducted by installation businesses. All around the nation, class-action lawsuits are being contested; one has even made it to the Supreme Court.
You can pay an independent laboratory to test your water, but you still need to know how many of the toxins they detect are safe and reasonable, and you still need to decide what else you might want to change.
Important aspects to think about
Installation: To allow pressure to force water through the filter, faucet filters thread onto your faucet spout. There are three thread adapters included with each system for the most popular kitchen faucet aerator fittings, but none of them will fit a pull-out hand sprayer or any other spout that is not threaded. Additionally, bathroom faucets frequently malfunction.
Size and bulk: Although most of the systems we discovered to use the same size filter cartridge, some are noticeably larger than others. You can encounter difficulty filling a stock pot or washing dishes if a large filter system is present.
Options for flow: Bypassing the filter is possible with all faucet-mount filters. When washing dishes, you don’t want to exhaust the filter and accept lower water pressure. With a spring-return switch, some filters immediately revert back to unfiltered water, while others provide a variety of spray patterns when in the unfiltered position.
All of the filters we discovered employ carbon block filters, thus their ratings are comparable. However, not all of them have the same certifications for removing pollutants. For further information, see our section on NSF certification.
One of the most significant distinctions between designs is whether to use a vertical or horizontal filter. You have a little more space around your faucet spout with a vertical filter mount, but some residual water from the filter may drip out sometimes. In contrast, horizontal-mount filters won’t drip as much once the flow is stopped.
Workings of carbon filters
The carbon block method of filtration is used in all of the water filter faucets in this category. That differs from activated carbon granules, which are what our budget selection water filter pitcher from our evaluation uses.
The majority of carbon-based (organic) molecules, which are also frequently the least flavorful, are adhered to by a sheet of carbon. Because of its abundance of small pores, activated carbon has an active surface area per ounce of over a million square feet.
Since compressed charcoal is used in carbon block filters as a medium, most particles larger than a micron will be captured in the filter’s passageways. Granule-based filters pass water much more readily and can use gravity-feed systems, but they also allow more impurities to slip past. It requires greater pressure to get water flowing through.
In general, carbon filters are excellent at removing everything from water except for dissolved metals, minerals, and salts. Even chlorine, which is often the component of municipal water that tastes the worst, may be effectively removed by carbon filters.